Charles Franklin

What do you think are the causes of Cambridge’s high-priced housing market?

Prices started climbing in 1994 after rent control ended. Since then, a number of things have been adding to the housing pressure. MIT and Harvard have been increasing their class sizes without building more student housing, which pushes students into the city. The tech boom in Kendall Square has drawn a lot of highly paid workers to the city who wish to live near by. The production of luxury apartments signals to other developers that they can make money by building more of the same. Perhaps the most insidious cause is speculative investment in land. There are many units that are owned by foreign investors who don’t care about the community. Some even leave their units empty.

How have high housing prices affected Cambridge and the surrounding region?

The predominant effect is to price out residents who have lived here for generations. This has decimated entire communities. These displaced residents move into Somerville and other surrounding cities which causes the displacement to propagate.

What housing options currently exist for low-income tenants who are not high on the affordable housing waitlists? How can Cambridge help them?

There aren’t very many. There wait lists include affordable, inclusionary, public, and section 8 housing. That encompasses most options. There are internal subsidy programs which are often provided by various charities for risk immigrants.

How does new market-rate residential development affect the affordability of Cambridge? How does new affordable housing affect the affordability of Cambridge?

Empirically, market rate housing production has not lowered the cost of housing. If it has, it’s been obscured by the increasing number of people moving to Cambridge. A lot of the new luxury towers aren’t affordable, even to people with six figure incomes.

Affordable housing production likely doesn’t affect the open market. Most of the people who qualify aren’t able to afford housing on the market and therefore don’t affect it.

What is the relationship between the twin crises of climate change and housing unaffordability? How can Cambridge address both?

These aren’t directly related. However, they can be addressed at once. New housing, both market and affordable, should be built to high environmental standards. That way we can increase density while mitigating the adverse effects of using more energy and building in flood prone areas.

What effects might more housing in Cambridge have on quality of life or the environment?

More housing, when done correctly, can increase the quality of life by creating community spaces around the new construction. Buildings with green technology can replace old inefficient buildings, which is good for the environment. When done improperly, the residents of the new construction could suffer psychologically and physiologically because of the lack of open and green spaces or the small size of units. Additional impermeable and dark surfaces could add to flood and heat risks.

Do you support the Affordable Housing Overlay? Please explain.

Generally Not: I think the idea is worth while, but I disagree with some of the details. I’ve worked endless hours on a similar proposal which uses a zoning overlay. See it here:

Would you support eliminating parking minimums for new housing development citywide? Please explain.

Yes: A lot of them don't get used and we shouldn't be incurring people to bring cars if they don't need them.

Would you support abolishing these restrictions by establishing citywide minimum zoning that allows more multifamily housing? Please explain.

Generally: I would loosen them to allow town houses in A and B residential zones. Res C already allows most if not all styles of multi family. I would also eliminate minimum lot sizes and reduce required open space to the lesser of 30% or the current requirement.

What measures in particular should Cambridge adopt to prevent tenant displacement?

I learned the hard way from another endorsement interview that you can’t prevent displacement without some form of rent control. It can only be mitigated by finding additional funding for affordable housing, increasing inclusionary requirements while allowing larger income ranges to occupy such units, and so on.

What should the city do to increase walking, biking, and transit usage in Cambridge?

Provide transit vouchers for the T either for everyone or low income families. Continue to roll out bike lanes and lit crosswalks. Provide city controlled minibus service.

What should the city do, if anything, to increase funding for housing affordability?

Use its budget surplus to leverage bonds and funding.

What other steps should the city take, if any, to encourage and fund the development of more homes, including market-rate and affordable housing, in Cambridge?

Market rate development doesn’t need more encouragement. All kinds of Affordable housing needs more funding.

What other measures do you support that will affect housing or development in Cambridge, which you have not yet gotten a chance to talk about?

Directly subsidizing down payments to homes. Owning often costs less per month than renting in Cambridge.

What have you done to advance the goals you’ve described in your answers above in your own work? 

I have been involved in politics since my mother took me to the Million Mom March as a child in 2000. This inspired me to become active in politics, including volunteering for the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns, and most recently canvassing for Annie Kuster’s successful reelection bid for congressional district NH-2. I came to Cambridge to attend MIT and study electrical engineering and computer science. I now live in Inman Square and work in Kendall Square as a software engineer. I started my political involvement in Cambridge when I helped co-founded Upgrade Cambridge. We have been pushing the city to further investigate municipal broadband for the past year and a half. I joined the leadership team of the Inman Square Neighborhood Association last spring. We’ve focused on keeping our neighbors informed about what happens in the city. Last October I joined the board of Green Cambridge, a non-profit that advocates for trees, urban sustainability, and environmental education.